Caution: Spoilers for the series premiere of New Amsterdam lied ahead.
NBC's new medical drama dropped a sizable shocker at the end of its series premiere. In the final moments of its debut episode, Dr. Helen Sharpe reveals that Max has cancer: squamous cell carcinoma, to be precise. Throughout the episode, New Amsterdam had hinted at the news that Max had subtly worked to avoid hearing. In delivering this twist, the show has taken its lead character from wearing the hat of only a doctor to also a patient.
It is not as if Max needed the news to go through the experience of being a patient to sympathize with being one. He heralds a great deal of change to the hospital where he is now the medical direction, all for the sake of the patients.
As he shares when addressing the staff earlier, it is from this first-hand experience of his sister dying (due to an infection she acquired in the hospital) that Max's passion for curing a broken medical system is strongly anchored. In the same scene Helen delivers the diagnosis, Max shares that the room they are in was his late sister's. It is a moment that brings the pilot full circle.
In revealing Max's own health crisis, New Amsterdam has put its lead character in the midst of a battlefield he had a slight distance from before being hit with the news. Whether the show takes the ball and runs with the depiction of a doctor learning firsthand the hurdles patients face will be intriguing to see.
There is certainly room to explore that as the plot progresses and a clearer picture of what Max is facing is brought into focus. Introducing this diagnosis also challenges viewers' expectations in terms of the stories protagonists usually face, especially at the start of the story.
While viewers of medical dramas are not strangers to the genre's lead characters being diagnosed with cancer, New Amsterdam is heading into it right off the bat. Grey's Anatomy's Izzie, for instance, survived it. In the current television landscape, where lead characters are sometimes killed off, Max's diagnosis registered with a bit more alarm than it would have years ago. Back then, leads felt safer and more untouchable.
Maybe it is due to his run on The Blacklist as Tom Keen, but Ryan Eggold's Max facing cancer so early on in New Amsterdam's run registered with a similar shock to the one experienced when Tom was brutally attacked in the crime drama's series opener. There is undoubtedly strong reason to believe Max will also survive his diagnosis.
Still, New Amsterdam has introduced a plot that should inform the season moving forward as the fallout ripples through its run. New Amsterdam airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on NBC, following new episodes of the drama This Is Us. Both are among a slew of series making their returns and premieres this fall on NBC and other networks.